Suffering: Why Would a Good and Loving God Allow Suffering?
Most of us believe that suffering is terrible, something to be avoided, and possibly a consequence of our own misbehaviors.
Is it possible that suffering is an integral part of our faith journey?
When asked by the Pharisees:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:34-39 NLT
In John 15:13 NLT, Jesus tells us,
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The defining moments of Jesus’ life, and of our redemption, came when, out of His love for us, He accepted betrayal by a friend, arrest, flogging, crowning with thorns, and mocking. He allowed Himself to be paraded through the streets like a criminal, nailed to a cross, and drained of life. Perhaps, we can love only to the degree that we, like Christ, are willing to suffer.
Christ sanctified suffering, making it salvific by his love. By our suffering, we are able to imitate Christ.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NLT
“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:2-4 NLT
The apostle, Paul, teaches us that we can make our sufferings a sacrificial offering to God:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters . . . to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 NLT
In 1 Pet. 2:21 CEB, Peter says:
“You were called to this kind of endurance, because Christ suffered on your behalf. He left you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps.”
Many of us are able to be grateful for the love and sacrifice we received, as children, from our parents. However, it is often not until we have children of our own, or until we are called upon to wholly care for another human being, that we can truly appreciate the love and the sacrifice of a good parent.
God is our all-good and perfect parent. We are immensely grateful that He sent His only son into this world to redeem us from our sins. We are also grateful for the suffering that Jesus endured, throughout His public ministry and, ultimately, on the cross, to pay the price for our sins. Is it possible that only through our best efforts to love unconditionally, and through our own sacrifice and suffering, that we can even begin to understand God’s immense love and sacrifice for us?
Consider praying/meditating on Jesus’ love and suffering for you (Mark 15:15-20). Lay your present physical, spiritual, emotional or mental suffering at the foot of His cross. Allow yourself to connect with Jesus’ feelings of abandonment by God (Mark 15:34), even as you feel most alone and abandoned. Ask Jesus to help you join your suffering to His, so that you are not alone. Ask that you might grow to more fully understand His love for you.
“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
© 2021 Christine Muehlenweg, Ph.D.